Taking A Running Break (Run All Day 02)

After spraining my ankle at the Yakima Skyline Rim 25k and being a good girl foregoing my trail marathon plans last weekend in the beautiful Methow Valley in favour of nurturing a stronger, happier foot I was very eager to hit the trails at St Edwards State Park to test out my legs, get some wind in my hair and hang out with friends at this social team relay event. While the day started out well, it ended with a bit of a disaster. The good news is my ankle behaved tremendously and put in some good pain free running. The bad news is that mere minutes before the end of the timed race I managed to break my collarbone, again.

Run All Day 02 is a refreshing footrace where teams of 2-5 battle to notch up the most miles, challenge or climbing points by running as many loops of the course in three hours. Only two runners from each team were allowed out on the course at the same time, and with three different loops to choose from, each offering a different length, technical difficulty or amount of elevation to climb, there were supposed to be some tactics involved. Bonus bands for extra points were awarded to a runner completing consecutive loops and each team also had two opportunities to play a “shadow runner” allowing either three runners on the course for one loop, or for one loop to be counted for double points. Sounds a bit confusing? Before the race we were also joking about the rules and whether to unlock the shadow runner we had to turn around three times, cluck like a chicken, then stand on our heads as we submitted a run to the Time Keeper, but once the race was underway it all fell into place.

RADCourseMap

Yellow – 1.6 Miles, 3 Challenge Pts, 1 Climbing Pt
Red – 2.0 Miles, 6 Challenge Pts, 4 Climbing Pts
Blue – 2.6 Miles, 8 Challenge Pts, 5 Climbing Pts

I was on team “Bluff Busters”, one of two teams racing on behalf of the Seven Hills Running Shop and I ran proudly sporting my “Run Magnolia” t-shirt. We were a crew of four comprising of my friend Earl, and then new friends Stacey and her pre-teen Keegan. The shop’s owner, Phil Kochik, along with Josh and Brian, would comprise our sister team, the “Bluff Boys”.

As I have a trail marathon in England on the horizon I was keen to get some good miles in and so team Bluff Busters decided to immediately use one of our shadow runners which would hopefully give us a head start on my bonus band collection, and so three of us toed the starting line. Stacey and Keegan took off on a yellow loop, while I decided to start the morning by following the blue flags. This would turn into the first of three happy blue loops before I’d decide to spice things up and venture into red territory.

Earlier that week I’d run the trails around Discovery Park, increasing my distance each time, and had been pleased to log some strong runs with only minor discomfort around my ankle following each jaunt. Despite feeling confident I vowed to just take it easy and be cautious on the trail. With each step running in the woods just got more and more fun though. The blue loop was pretty technical and I just love zoning out into focused concentration of foot placement, and soon I was merrily hurtling along on cruise control. That is, until I’d hit the steep hill for which this route was awarded so many climbing points, and start to trudge. With each step I’d be reassuring my legs by thinking “Just wait ’til I actually do some hill training and can run these damn things properly!” How true that is is pretty iffy though as I’m sure it’s all mental and I’m just inherently lazy. I can happily push myself at a good clip up the Magnolia Bluff road climb, or doggedly charge up the Hidden Valley stairs in Discovery Park, but hit an unfamiliar hill and that little voice will kick in and say “Now, that’s enough of that nonsense!” It’s definitely a bit of a weakness that I need to work on, but despite my very inconsistent effort I managed to consistently clock in each blue loop at just under 26 minutes, which I was happy with.

While I was finding that repeating the same loop meant that it seemed to get easier each time, after three slogs up Everest I found myself wondering what the other trails were like. Fluttering red flags beckoned me, especially as I had noticed that they briefly hugged alongside the blue, but then deftly skipped to the left right at the base of the big climb. Intriguing.

The red loop turned out to be quite fun. At least, the first half was exhilarating. I found myself on a nice downward path and was soon clip clopping down the trail at a merry pace. Honestly, if you’d told me I was going to stumble and hit the ground hard enough to crack my clavicle and give myself probable concussion, I’d have gone all in placing my bet on that section. But no, I careened safely down into the valley, swooping past the Bluff Boys who were probably several loops ahead of me and chatting their way down the hill like schoolgirls, before my brakes returned when I hit upward elevation and they soon passed by me again. Though, not before calling me back from what might have been some good bonus miles when they spotted me taking a wrong turn ahead. Thanks Bluff Boys!

Returning to base I was feeling guilty for hogging all the running, and was happy to discover my team mates were readying themselves for another loop, but needed a touch more time. I grabbed another bonus band and headed out to buy them some by exploring the yellow loop.

Bad move.

Oh how I hated this loop. I don’t know why I took such a dislike to it, but I just felt it seemed so much longer than the “short” loop it was supposed to be, was terribly boring and running it was a real slog. When I made it back to base I had a good whinge and moan, and vowed not to run it again.

When Stacey and Keegan came in from doing their bit for the team I was ready to head out again. I was considering waiting to run with Earl, but when he said he would be going for another yellow I balked and like the anti-social beastie I am, I took off alone to put another fun blue loop in. On my return I found I had logged just over thirteen miles of the fifteen I had arbitrarily set as my morning’s goal, that there were nineteen minutes left on the countdown clock, and that none of the other Bluff Busters were game to throw down a final loop. Glaring at the taunting yellow flags I begrudgingly entered the woods again. I couldn’t turn away from a challenge.

Really bad move.

It was only a 1.6 mile loop and the terrain was easy. By my reckoning I only had to run a steady eleven minute mile to get back to base before the time ran out. I was tired, but could still maintain a good sub nine minute pace on this trail without pushing too hard. No problem.

As I was calculating and thinking that I should be able to just cruise it in I felt a sharp pain in my arm. I jumped, and hopped for a few strides, and did some very unladylike cursing as I brushed something off my elbow and realised that I’d been stung. That woke me up. Ruefully rubbing the burning I carried on running.

On the beep I instinctively checked my Garmin and I grinned to myself as I hit 15 miles. My mileage goal was accomplished and I was just prepping for landing now as I crunched my way along the gentle gravel path picking up the pace a little as I could feel the draw of the finish line. I was following a man being pulled along by two happy dogs and enjoying myself, lost in a runner’s rhythm. I clocked that the dogs and their master had rounded the corner ahead and disappeared into the leaves and then I got buzzed by another insect. I swatted at my face in a panic, recalling the angry nature of my last encounter. There was a flash of white movement in the bushes to my left, and then the next thing I knew both feet had hit an invisible, non-existant trip wire on the flattest, least rooty part of the trail and I was slamming my shoulder into the hard packed ground and skidding to a halt on my head. As I fell there was a scream so loud I’m sure it must’ve rocked the State Park, but there was no cursing from me this time. I rolled onto my back in silence and caught my breath before struggling to my feet as a hiker in white strolled out of the hidden trail junction, passed me and ambled on his way without breaking stride.

Yellow Loop
Photo Credit: Tim Harris.
Running the Yellow Loop for the first time. I think this photo may have been taken on the segment of trail where I fell, or nearabouts. Looks treacherous doesn’t it?

I still had a race to do, and aid would be at the finish line anyway, so I resumed running. I emerged from the trail and hit the road where there were marshalls watching for traffic and pointing the way for the final stretch. “Three minutes left to get up that hill!” the male marshall yelled, and the lady marshall who had been giving girl power encouragement to me all morning every time I passed her by waved and cheered. I gritted my teeth and got it done, logging my last loop for the team, dropping off my bonus bands, grabbing a high five from the Lars, the Race Director, before stumbling away and collapsing on my back in the grass to run diagnostics and assess the damage.

It wasn’t good. I’d broken my collarbone before and could tell something was amiss, but I was struggling to believe that could possibly be the case. I’d only been commiserating with a friend whose daughter had broken her clavicle just days before, and surely that would just be too coincidental, or ironic or something.

It was then that I found out that my team mate, Stacey, when she’s not working at the running shop, is a nurse. I was grateful to have her take charge, get me seated, under a blanket and generally fuss over me in a practical way. Once it was decided that I really ought to get checked out at a hospital Roger Michel of Evergreen Trail Runs took over and ferried me to the nearest emergency room where I wasn’t at all surprised to have my fears confirmed.

X-Ray Left Clavicle

Smashing run Tasty Pie.

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